Free speech is under attack. The anti-free speech sentiment on college campuses runs much deeper than anything we’ve seen before, and progressive activists and their media allies are colluding to silence the speech of media personalities who support President Trump.
College campuses are the most visible example of restrictions on free speech. We’ve seen many times that inviting a conservative speaker results in violent outbursts. Intolerance of free speech on college campuses was recently documented by a study by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The study concluded, “Despite the critical importance of free speech on campus, too many universities — in policy and in practice — chill, censor, and punish students’ and faculty members’ expressive activity.”
Even though offensive speech is protected under the Constitution, a frightening number of college students find it acceptable to shout down a controversial speaker or to use physical force to silence speech deemed “hurtful.” A nationwide poll of college students on the First Amendment by the Brookings Institution found that 51 percent agreed that shouting down an on-campus speaker is acceptable and 19 percent agreed that violence is appropriate to stop the speaker.
Incredibly, free speech restrictions at colleges and the lack of support for the First Amendment are only the tip of the anti-free speech iceberg. Lurking behind the scenes, progressive activists are eagerly working to exploit the wavering support of the First Amendment beyond college campuses to silence speech of opposing political views. As President Trump dismantles the fundamental transformation of the U.S. engineered by former President Obama, the political Left is mounting a counter-attack.
Progressive activists are attacking SiriusXM for allowing former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon onto the SiriusXM Patriot channel to host a new show, “Breitbart Tonight.” (Disclosure: My wife, Deneen Borelli, and I are substitute hosts for SiriusXM Patriot.) Immediately after the announcement, Twitter exploded with customers promising to end their SiriusXM subscriptions because of Bannon’s so-called “hate speech.”
Bannon is not alone.
Fox News host Sean Hannity, a vocal supporter of President Trump, is a primary target of progressive activists. Hannity faced an effort by Media Matters to encourage companies not to advertise on his show.
The Media Matters strategy is to attack the business model of commercial TV that relies on product advertising for programming. The organization’s president, Angelo Carusone, eagerly promoted his plan to get Hannity fired because he disagrees with the host’s views.
Carusone described Hannity’s speech as “uniquely destructive” and “reckless” and accused him of promoting “extremism.”
The attack against Hannity by Media Matters has been bolstered by competing cable TV hosts and commentators who have commercial and ideological interests in bringing down the highly popular and successful conservative host as well Fox News. It escalated to a broader attack on Fox News, as the network covers news exposing the anti-Trump bias at the FBI and the Department of Justice.
MSNBC commentator Steve Schmidt said Fox News was similar to “propaganda in authoritarian countries,” regarding the networks’ coverage of the controversy facing the FBI and Justice Department.
CNN’s Jake Tapper was also upset about Fox News’ coverage of the FBI and Justice Department, saying the network and President Trump supporters were using harsh language that he characterized as “incredibly extremist rhetoric.”
Finally, an editorial in The New York Times blasted Fox News in its defense of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The editorial called Hannity, Judge Jeanine Pirro, and Laura Ingraham “well paid propagandists at Fox News” and criticized President Trump for watching too much of “Fox’s sycophants.”
Importantly, research suggests there may be a method to the left-wing madness to attack the adversing model of Fox News. The terms used by Carusone, Schmidt, Tapper, and The New York Times to describe Hannity and Fox News are words Millennials and Gen-Xers — key advertising audiences — could find offensive. According to Omnicom Media Group, almost three quarters of Millennials and Gen-Xers demographic groups “will not like, recommend or purchase a brand if it appears next to hateful, derogatory, or offensive content.”
The real danger is that news and commentary opposing the left-wing establishment will be silenced because publicly traded companies will not hire conservatives for fear of harassment, intimidation, and possible revenue loss. If the Left is successful, a subscription-based model such as those offered by CRTV and The BlazeTV could be the best alternative to keep conservative speech alive.
Free speech, tolerance, competition, and “just change the channel” doesn’t apply with today’s left wing.
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Dr. Tom Borelli is a contributor to Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @tomborelli.